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Independence and quality of mass Media in the InteRnet AGE

Project description

Technology has changed how we get our news

The internet has profoundly changed the environment in which traditional media operate. Competition from online platforms has contributed to a sharp decline in advertising revenues forcing many news outlets to drastically rethink their business model and organisation. These changes may have detrimental consequences for the quality of news reporting and the provision of political information. The MIRAGE project will investigate the impact of the internet on content quality and the independence of mass media from private interests, such as advertisers and lenders. The project's findings will provide policymakers and media practitioners with novel insight into how the industry is transforming and what it means for the quality of democracy.


The Internet was expected to make citizens considerably more informed and better able to hold politicians and powerful interests accountable. Many predicted it would also effectively complement traditional media and improve news reporting. These expectations have not been met. There is no evidence that citizens have become more informed; they have, however, become more ideologically polarized, possibly due to online media overexposing users to like-minded content. At the same time, traditional media are struggling: competition from online platforms has slashed advertising revenues forcing newspapers to close or downsize. These changes risk undermining the quality of reporting and making media more vulnerable to capture by special interests.
My project examines how the Internet has transformed the way news is produced and disseminated, both directly and through its influence on traditional media, and its ultimate effect on media independence and content quality. To this end, I tackle three distinct but intertwined questions. First, I study how lower advertising revenues affect newspapers’ organization and content quality by exploiting the staggered introduction of advertising platform Craigslist across the US. Second, I examine how media dependence on advertisers influences news bias by testing the relationship between advertising spending by car manufacturers and coverage of car safety recalls in US newspapers. Finally, I study how the dependence of media on banks affects coverage of financial issues; focusing on Europe’s sovereign debt crisis, I test whether newspapers linked to banks with higher exposure to risky debt endorsed different crisis-management measures.
My results will shed light on the deep transformations the media industry is undergoing and their implications for the quality of democracy.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 131 125,00
08005 Barcelona

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The organization defined itself as SME (small and medium-sized enterprise) at the time the Grant Agreement was signed.

Este Cataluña Barcelona
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 131 125,00

Beneficiaries (2)